‘Chardin And Rembrandt’ By Marcel Proust

It was pretty exciting when this was published in English. It’s a little padded, to make it the length of a long chapbook, but that’s okay.

Chardin and Rembrandt opens with a description of a young man (clearly upper middle class, at least), looking around the dining room table and is disgusted. The half eaten food. The meats laying out. The ash strewn fireplace. In retrospect, it reminds me of the reactions of the narrator of Sartre’s Le Nausee.

But then he says to go to the Louvre and check out the still life paintings of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. By doing so, you will see the sublime in the quotidien. You don’t have to be a scholar nor even to have read Proust’s masterpiece to see the comparison to the episode of the madeleine or, really to the whole damn book to know that.

As for Rembrandt… he starts to write about Rembrandt representing something more traditionally sublime, but then he trails off. Literally. It ends with “…”

This is not a mature book, by any means. Proust is famous for his long sentences, but he also has a certain economy. This is more… florid. A younger man’s essay.

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